High Court to hear only urgent personal injury cases during lockdown

Personal injury attorneys have been told that only urgent measures can be heard in the High Court during the third Covid lockdown.

Personal Injury List Judge, Justice Kevin Cross, of the Four Courts said today that urgent cases from lawyers are not necessarily limited to those involving litigants with life-threatening problems, but can include personal and economic difficulties.

The courts, Justice Cross said, are “open” during the Level 5 lockdown, but attorneys will need to demonstrate that the court’s personal injury actions are urgent before they can be admitted to the hearing.

If a case does not meet the urgency criteria, Justice Cross said it would not get a hearing and, while viewing the personal injury list remotely, stated that actions considered urgent do not include cases where the parties are anxious to proceed.

Lawyers now also need to file a prior application to the court to assess whether a case is urgent and needs an early appointment for the hearing. For the remainder of January, nearly 50 cases are already listed in the busy High Court, and 16 of those have been specially designated, meaning they usually take precedence when assigning cases to a judge.

The decision to prioritize urgent cases was made on the instructions of the President of the High Court, Ms. Justice Mary Irvine, that routine personal injury cases will not be heard until further notice. Cases will still be listed and remote polling will be conducted three times a day in the expectation that the vast majority of cases will be resolved after negotiation between the parties.

Any routine personal injury that remains on the list and is not resolved will be moved to the general list instead of moving to the next day as usual.

During the initial lockdown, the backlog of unheard personal injury was 300, but the court reduced that significantly with additional sessions in September.

Lynsey Bennett’s CervicalCheck case

Among the cases listed this month are cases related to the CervicalCheck controversy, including the case of the 32-year-old mother of two, Lynsey Bennett, who is critically ill with cancer.

Ms. Bennett commenced a lawsuit in the High Court last April for alleged misinterpretation of her cervical smears taken as part of the national screening program.

Mrs. Bennett will have her case heard next week. It is not yet clear whether a full remote hearing of the case will be set up, or whether a physical hearing will be set up where the parties adhere to Covid-19 social distancing regulations.

Four legal teams are involved in the case.

Lynsey Bennett, Ennybegs, Killoe, Co. Longford has sued HSE, the Irish test laboratory, Eurofins Biomnis Ireland Ltd., Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin, and the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, New Jersey.

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